A Game of Thrones Themes

A Game of Thrones Themes


Instead of following the pattern set in other books where justice always prevails and there is no real question on whether the unjust will be punished, Game of Thrones creates a sense of tension because nothing is for certain. Many characters that could be considered as the epitome of justice and goodness end up dead because they were not cunning enough. Such a character is Eddard Strak who, despite his desire to make things right and his loyalty towards the King, ends up being killed because he can’t adapt to the world filled with malicious characters. Justice is not as valued in the world created by J.R.R. Martin as it is the ability to survive through whatever means necessary and adapt to the world they live in.


Another common theme found in the book is betrayal. This theme appears even in the prologue where Will, a Sworn Brother, betrays his companions and deserts the Night Watch to save himself. Sansa is another character that betrays her family and herself when she molds herself to be the person Joffrey wants. The Queen betrays her husband by having him killed and by lying to him about the true father of her children. Other characters that are linked frequently with betrayal is Jamie Lannister, who killed the Mad King even if Jamie was supposed to protect him, Varys, the Spider who knows everything about everyone.


Probably the most evident and present theme is the fight for power and also the description of power, which is in a constant change. The power shifts from one House to another and there is a distinction between Royal power and the political one. The King doesn’t represent the ultimate form of power in the realms created by G.R.R. Martin because the king’s authority is constantly questioned and attacked. Apart from the political and royal power, we could also talk about the type of power some characters have over the others. The book is based on the fight regarding the regal power but it is clear that sometimes, the regal power is less influential than the strength possessed by individual people or Houses.

All people try to amass some power by their actions so they can grow in the very tightly packed pecking order of the ASOIAF universe. An example could by creating marital alliances, as between Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister among several. Bastards like Jon Snow hope to raise high in the ranks of Night's Watch. Bran hopes to be a knight. Varys and Littlefinger do heinous things to get be on the small council.

Morality and Honour

A recurring theme is the struggle in deciding between what one wants to do and what one ought to do. Honour is a huge deciding factor on one's character, and people who don't follow a certain code of conduct, either out of force of habit (for instance, Bronn who is a sellsword) or as a necessity (like Jaime Lannister, who killed Aerys Targaryen to save Westeros) are branded with a low character for their life. This also implicates bastard children like Jon Snow or Mya Stone, as they are thought to be born out of lust and deceit, and hence not trustworthy. Power, sometimes, excuses a person from this judgement as in the case of Robert Baratheon who is promiscuous and indifferent to running of the kingdom. People like Ned Stark and Jorah Mormont are filled with a life-long guilt for forsaking their honour even if it was for a single time. Then, their are some people who willingly forsake their honour and morality to serve a greater purpose, like Varys or as a form of revenge as Daenerys does by burning Mirri Maz Duur. Actions in the universe if A Song of Ice and Fire may or may not be dictated by honour but a person is certainly judged upon that. The perception for these characters born out of this judgement and their actual reality creates the actual conflict in them.


A very potent theme in this series is that of family. Nothing seems to be quite as important as family. Several of the political decisions are made on the basis of the family dynamic. During the war, Cersei held Joffrey back out of love for him, and after his death decides to seek vengeance against his killer. Family is a recurrent theme in the series and the lines between good and evil are often blurred for the needs of the family.


Another prominent theme in this series is that of class. The “bastard” holds the same status in the society as an orphan would, or perhaps even worse. He belongs to no class and is doomed to a life in the margins of the society. There is also a power struggle between different classes and the bloodshed that is caused is enormous. The struggle different houses as well as the ones between the illegitimate sons with the society to validate themselves show this distinction.


Many of the important characters started out as young children and the reader has seen them mature over the years. This novel is a sort of coalesced Bildungsroman for diverse characters who attain identity in their own unique ways. This can be seen in the maturation of Sansa, Arya and Jon Snow and their increasing important roles in the plot structure.


Vengeance is a theme that is distinct from justice and is very significant in this series. It is perhaps the greatest driving force behind the entire plot. this is another element that blurs the lines between good and evil, showing that in reality there is no real black and white. For instance, Arya relentlessly kills those she believes had a hand in her family’s murder.

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